Hateruma Island is Japan’s southernmost point and you should stay there at least for one night. The most eye catching building here is the astronomical observatory located at the wild south coast (Philippine Sea) which was built here because of the clear skies over the island. From spring to June you can watch the Southern Cross low over the horizone. Near the port in the northwestern part is a beautiful beach, Nishihama, from where you can watch wonderful sunsets near Iriomote Island. It takes over an hour from Ishigaki port to Hateruma, which is also called “Paipateroma” in the local dialect (pai means south). Since there are only three boat traveling during daytime, Hateruma is not really a target for a day’s tour. Take your time, its more than worth it.
This island, which long ago was called “Hate No Uruma” (an island of coral reefs at the far end), is somewhat separated from the neighboring islands by rough water currents. Quite contrary to the rough waters of the ocean, the red tiled roofs surrounded by stone walls and the Fu-kugi trees which block the sunlight, provide a surprisingly tranquil atmosphere to the island. And when the sun goes down, you can enjoy a spectacular view of stars and from winter to spring, a constellation known as the “Southern Cross”, shines brightly on the island.
Some famous spots on Hateruma Island include the monument marking the Southernmost Point in all of Japan, the Hateruma Observatory, Nishihama Beach, Pemuchi Beach, the Koto Round Lookout Point, Takanasaki Point, and also a road which was made using stones from all over Japan. The observation tower is special due to the fact that it is the only place in Japan where you can see most of the sky’s constellations. Out of 88 constellations, 84 can be seen from the observatory.
This beach is near the monument at the southernmost tip of Japan. The white sands and coral reef which continue endlessly are a wonderful view. There are few tourists and it is atmosphere like a private beach. It can walk to the end of a reef at the time of ebb tide. The Iriomote Island and Kohama Island can be looked from this beach on the good day of the weather.
Star Observation Center (Tenmondai)
Look at the stars in Japan’s southern-most point, from an outdoor stage with a planetarium equipped with a computer operated 200mm refracting telescope. Located on Hateruma Island, this astronomical observatory is equipped with a computer guided 200mm refractor plus CCD and film cameras. It is the best place from which the Southern Cross can be seen in Japan from December to June.
Amid beautiful nature next to the southen cost of the island no man-made illumination disturbs the seeing and airplanes are not allowed to cross over. Except on Mondays, you can enjoy a guided tour through the observatory from 7pm to 10pm and have a look or more through the telescope. Bring your own pair of binoculars or portable telescope and share the view from the roof with the other visitors. Phone: 09808-5-8112
The Kunari Peninsula
A precipitous cliff continues across the coastline in front of the monument on Japan’s southern-most point. The magnificent sight is breathtaking.
The Hamashitan Colony
The Hamashitan plants spread its roots on the rock where the waves hit, just as Bonsai plants. The saltwater does not kill the plants, and they have been gazing at the beach since long ago. Hamashitan is located on the west part of Hateruma Island, is on the place which takes 15 minutes by the car from Buribuchi Park. “ Hamashitan colony of the tree more than 100 years old” indicates “Mizuganpi” in this island. More than 30 of this tree have been growing along Kezaki seashore, and it is connected to the Nishihama beach. A shower, a toilet, or a resting place is also fully equipped.
The starry sky. You won’t see the night sky as shown by the montage, but you won’t believe how many stars you can see in a clear night free of any lights on the beach of any of Yaeyama’s islands. Located on a latitude of slighly over 24 degrees, one can watch the Southern Cross from spring to end of June, best from the southernmost island Hateruma. Aided with a pair of binoculars the Milky Way above the beach is yours. In early March at 9pm, the winter constellation Orion and the Plejades are up high and you can pinpoint the Great Orion Nebula with your naked eye.
A type of ice cream with a refreshing taste, made by kneading “Awanami”, which is known as a rare kind of Awamori (Okinawan liquor), into vanilla ice cream. In addition, “Gettou” and “Beniimo”, very popular flavors among the children on the island are also available.